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Lush yards require due diligence

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By Ed Pfeifer
Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

After a long and frosty winter, the spring is finally here.

On display now are some sweet and precious sights like greening grass and budding trees.

But, while these iconic and attractive rites of spring are titillating our senses, a much less pleasing botanical activity is taking place. For it is now that the dreaded dandelion develops and begins its predictable assault on our lawns.

The dandelion is the most successful and easily recognizable broadleaf weed in our region. It flourishes in the damp soil and warm sun of spring. Long the bane of the lawn enthusiast, the dandelion is often targeted for elimination but seldom is that elimination achieved.

Most of us choose synthetic herbicide/fertilizer combinations to do the deed. They are easily applied with a walk-behind spreader and they can be quite effective. But, proper application and proper follow-up is the key. As with all chemicals, product specifics should be reviewed before employment. However, listed below are some simple tips to help you get past the most common reasons for failure.

First and foremost is correct timing. As a general rule, broad-leaf killing synthetic herbicides should be applied to the lawn when the dandelion's leaves are fully developed and the plant is actively growing. This means that getting them early is not advisable. Most successful applications are done in mid to late May.

Also critical is the condition of the lawn. Most products have recommendations that include the following: the grass should be cut 2 days prior to application and it must be damp with dew or a light sprinkling of water.

The lawn should not receive rain, nor should it be cut for at least 24 hours following application.

The herbicide works well and because of the fertilizing component in these products, lawns will commonly turn a deep green and grow aggressively.

That is great but in most cases it's not enough to deliver a knockout punch to the dandelions. For this I suggest a program of true soil enhancement.

Have your soil's pH tested and get it healthy with proper liming and organic fortifications. By doing this you will provide a great environment for the roots of your grass. The roots then can access vital nutrients and the lawn will strengthen itself.

So if you have had it with the crop of yellow flowers that appears in your yard every spring and want to effectively use your lawn products, your time and your money, start this season. But please don't rush it, don't invent your own application instructions and don't forget that healthy soil is the key to a healthy lawn. Perhaps next year when spring blesses us with its warm smile, and colorful blossoms, the protruding head of a dandelion won't sour your experience.

Ed Pfeifer is the owner of Pfeifer Hardware Inc., 300 Marshall Way, Mars. If you have any questions, call the store at 724-625-9090.

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